While I was in High School, I was always told that apprenticeships are a vocational option, and not something that I should investigate. Because of this, I went to Sixth Form and planned to go to Uni. I took Maths, Physics, Politics and Geography at A Level with the idea of studying engineering at Uni. But when it came to revising for my As Levels, I found myself spending far more time on Geography than my other subjects as that was what I was passionate about. This is when I started to question my choices and with how expensive university is and not keen on the debt that is involved with it, I started to look at careers in Geography and that’s when I discovered apprenticeships at companies like WSP.
I applied to become a Business Administration Apprentice in the Land Referencing department of WSP without really knowing what Land Referencing was, but I wanted a career that was linked to Geography. In the lead up to my interview I spent time researching what Land Referencing was, and I couldn’t find much information so I had no idea what the role would be until I was in the interview itself. As soon as I got shown around the office and was told what I’d be doing, I knew this is what I wanted to do for my career. The next day I got a call offering me the job.
I have been part of the London Land Referencing team since my first day and have learnt so much! I got to join a really good team working on HS2 Phase 1 with a former apprentice as my “buddy” which helped the transition from being a student to an employee.
Since I joined, I’ve worked mainly on High Speed Two (HS2). As it is a large scheme there are a lot of teams working together in London, Birmingham and India, so teamwork is very important. The day-to-day tasks of a Land Referencer include using Geographic Information System (GIS) to create plans, look at plots and interpret the HMLR titles. HMLR titles break down all the land in the UK into registered freeholds and leaseholds and is one of the first steps we use to obtain details about who owns/occupies that land.
Once we have done that, there is a level of investigative work which is good fun. We use desktop referencing (looking at Google Maps, Ordinance Survey, Companies House etc) to find out as much as possible about the plots of land and the potential interested people/companies. As well as completing desktop referencing, we also do physical referencing of the land. On Phase 1, I’ve been on many different types of site visits. We complete site observations which include walking over the plots and taking in as much detail as possible. This type of site is used to supplement Google Maps and allows us to get a better sense of the land and spot features that we may have missed. We also complete Unknown Notice site, which involves erecting Unknown Legal Notices on site when we are not sure of the owner of the plots of land. The notices tend to be survey notices, but we also put up temporary and permanent possession notices. Lastly, we also undertake contact site visits with the people and companies we identify during our desktop referencing.
We use this site to confirm ownership of plots in question if we don’t have contact details for the freeholders/occupiers of that plot. This something we must do every 6 months to ensure we always have up to date information before service of notices.
While I am still relatively new to Land Referencing, it is certainly a rewarding career and one that you can get a lot of valuable skills from. Looking back, I couldn’t be happier at choosing an apprenticeship with WSP over university.
Assistant Land Consultant at WSP